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High-Efficiency Furnace Tune Up Time

Now is a great time to get your high-efficiency furnace tuned up for winter heating. Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating offers these tips to help you get ready for the colder fall weather.

High efficiency furnaces typically take in fresh air and exhaust to the outside. High efficiency furnaces can be vented through pipes at or near the foundation level of your home. If your furnace vents horizontally through the foundation wall of your home, it’s very important to keep these pipes clear of any debris that may have accumulated during the summer or early fall. This can include spider webs or other small nests, leaves and other organic matter.

When you attempt to remove debris, be sure you don’t accidentally push the material further into the pipe! Most organic materials can be removed manually. Dry organics like leaves and webs can also be removed with a shop vacuum. Remove any weeds, branches or overgrowth within several feet of either port to ensure proper airflow to and from the furnace. Don’t cover the ports or store any materials around them, either. Stored materials can trap leaves and promote the collection of snow and ice around the intake and exhaust ports.

Furnace exhaust gases can be corrosive. Examine the wall space around a horizontal exhaust pipe for signs of damage, which might include discoloration or surface pitting. This kind of damage may indicate that your furnace isn’t venting properly, and it is important to remedy this immediately. Consult with Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating , and we can replace your existing vent or revent your furnace if necessary.

During the heating cycle, some moisture will condense inside the pipes and on the heat exchanger. The intake and exhaust ports are constructed to allow this water to run back to the furnace to drain. It’s possible for condensate to freeze in long pipe runs, potentially damaging the exhaust port pipe and enabling carbon monoxide and other harmful gases to enter the home. Insulating the pipes can provide some additional thermal protection, but even pipes that have been insulated should be inspected for cracks or other signs of damage.

The condensate runs to a household drain through a special drainpipe, which can also freeze. If the condensate drainpipe freezes, your furnace will shut down. Check your condensate drain to ensure that it is free flowing. If the drain appears to be clogged, contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating and we’ll clear the condensate drain. If your furnace operates in an unheated space, you may want to insulate the condensate drainpipe to ensure uninterrupted operation.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating offers heating inspections and tune-ups. Contact us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule your appointment.

Winterizing Your Home, Part 2: Carbon Monoxide Kills

In my last post, I talked about winterizing your Boston home from the outside. Making sure that water can get away from your home is key to preventing leaks. Draining sprinkler lines and faucets can help prevent freezing damage to valves and lines. Winterizing the outside of your home is only half of the battle. There’s plenty to do inside to get your Boston home ready for winter.

On the inside, your first priority is safety. Have your furnace or heating plant inspected annually by a trained, licensed heating and cooling professional. This is essential, especially if you have a high-efficiency furnace. In the grand scheme of things, high efficiency furnaces don’t have a very long life and problems can arise without warning. Carbon monoxide (CO) leaks can kill in a very short period of time. A furnace inspection, along with the installation (or testing) of carbon monoxide detectors can mean the difference between life and death.

Having a lower-efficiency furnace or boiler doesn’t mean you’re safe, though. These systems can also develop dangerous problems that can allow carbon monoxide to leak into the living space. If you do not know how to inspect your furnace or heating system for problems, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating. We’re always happy to help keep your home safe and comfortable in the winter.

Any gas-burning appliance (furnace, boiler, gas dryer, gas stove) can create carbon monoxide. CO is a sign that natural gas is not burning completely. Gas stoves burn natural gas almost entirely and do not normally require any special ventilation. If you notice that your “blue flame” is yellow or orange, your stove may be having a problem. If you smell natural gas when the stove is not in use, ventilate your kitchen immediately. Turn the gas valve off and vacate your home. Contact the gas company or Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating. We can locate and correct gas leaks around your major appliances.

Gas dryers, water heaters, furnaces, and boilers must all vent to the outside. Do not attempt to heat a basement or laundry space with venting from a gas dryer. You’ll end up with pretty wet air (which can encourage mold and mildew growth), and you could unknowingly allow CO into your living space.

Also, do not run a fuel-burning generator of any kind in or near your living space. This includes basements, utility rooms, and attached or closed garages. Kerosene and diesel generators must be vented to the outside, because like other combustible fuel burners, they generate lethal amounts of CO.

If you have any questions about your heating plant, gas-fired appliances, or back-up generators, please contact Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can inspect your heating plant and gas appliances, and correct any issues, add or replace safety valves and help you ensure that your home is ready for the heating season.